A few days ago, I showed my class the class-blog of a colleague of mine, the same colleague with whom I presented the keynote talk at last week’s Digital Nation Conference sponsored by CAIS.
They were writing about Romanticism, and Shakespeare. My students are writing about history and the fall of the Roman Republic. Not exactly parallel topics, really. But here’s the thing… about 2/3s of my students picked up right away on the idea that quoting from your sources is a good idea. About half picked up on the idea of restating the meaning of the quotation in a way that sheds positive light on your desired intention. About a third got that using an analytical/abstract term like “metaphor” or “imagery”, which described the type of poetic device, was useful.
Then my students went back to their own primary source documents, and started writing comments about what they were reading. Lo and behold… they improved right away. Their responses grew from lame 1-sentence answers to 3-5 sentence responses, using correct grammar and punctuation and spelling.
Blogging is modeling.
It’s allowing students to see and read other work, and get a sense of what is, and isn’t good quality work. And it makes all the difference in the world, because now students are in the position of self-differentiating their instruction process. They’re able to ask questions about what’s of interest to them, and build their own understanding in their own writing, in a place where like-minded students can see their opinions, and add to them.